Singapore, known affectionately as The Lion City, is a vibrant melting pot of different cultures, world-class shopping, mouth-watering traditional food, nightlife and iconic architecture, but where does this unique island city-state stand in terms of gambling and casinos? We look at Singapore’s land based and online gambling laws and the best online casinos servicing the Singaporean market.
Singapore’s gambling laws
Gambling in Singapore is a tightly regulated industry, with strict laws in place to keep the gambling industry free from criminal activity and to minimise the potential harm to society. Certain gambling activities are allowed, as long as a license has been granted to the operator by the Singapore government. Any gambling activity without a license or exemption from the government is prohibited from operating in Singapore.
Different laws apply to different facets of gambling, with major legislation including the Common Gaming Houses Act, Casino Control Act, Betting Act, Remote Gambling Act and the Private Lotteries Act. It is legal in Singapore to gamble on certain land based casino games, horse racing, sports betting and lotteries and some specified online gambling activities.
Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA)
The industry watchdog responsible for overseeing all gambling business in Singapore is the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), which is a government department of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It exists to ensure gaming in Singapore is conducted in an honest and safe manner, and to ensure the country’s gambling industry upholds “pride and integrity for a safe Singapore.” The mission of the CRA is to:
- Ensure the management and operation of casinos in Singapore remains free from criminal influence and exploitation
- Ensure that gaming in the casinos is conducted honestly
- Contain and control the potential of a casino to cause harm to minors, vulnerable people and the society at large.
The Casino Regulatory Authority reviews the casino regulatory regime on a regular basis to ensure it is running in line with the organisations goals.
Singapore’s casino entry levy
Two world-class integrated casino resorts are legally licensed to operate in Singapore – the famous Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands Casino. Casinos were previously prohibited in Singapore, but the approval of these lavish gambling destinations in 2010 provided a giant boost to the country’s tourism sector and continue to attract thousands of visitors every day.
To safeguard against problem gambling, the Singapore government introduced a unique casino entry levy for all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (SCPRs) under Section 116 of the Casino Control Act. The entry levy means all Singapore locals must make a payment to access the gambling areas within the integrated resorts (all other areas of the resorts remain free to enter without a levy). Foreigners are exempt from the levy.
According to the Casino Regulatory Authority, the casino entry levy exists to “remind SCPRs that gambling is an expense and not a way to make a living.” The levy costs S$100 and is valid for entry to the one casino you purchased the entry level from for 24 conecutive hours starting from the first entry into the casino. An annual entry level of S$2,000 can also be purchased and is valid for 12 months. The penalty for entering a casino without paying the entry levy fee or overstaying your 24 hour timeframe is up to S$1,000.
Is online gambling legal in Singapore?
All forms of online gambling in Singapore are governed under the legislation of the Remote Gambling Act 2004 (RGA) which came into effect on 2nd February 2015. The RGA only covers real money online gambling activity and does not extend to govern online games that offer credits or merchandise which can be later exchanged for cash.
Prior to introduction of the RGA, the online gambling laws in Singapore presented a grey area. Under the new legislation, the RGA allows online gambling operations to operate legally provided they have been granted a license by the Singapore government. To date, only two online gambling operators have been given license to operate in Singapore – Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club – with approval to run sports betting, horse racing and lottery wagering only. Under the Remote Gambling Act, players at these licensed sites must be at least 21 years old, gambling on credit is not allowed and both operators must set daily funding and gambling limits or risk huge fines and having their licensed revoked.
All other forms of online gambling are illegal in Singapore, including online casino games. The RGA has criminalised online gambling at all sites other than Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club, imposing some hefty fines of up to $5,000 or six months imprisonment to players found gambling at unlicensed casino sites. Even bigger penalties apply for gambling operators who continue to service the Singapore market, with fines of up to $500,000 and the possibility of seven years imprisonment. The RGA requires ISP’s to put a block on foreign run gambling sites and financial institutions to block all payments to remote gambling operators.
Best online casino sites servicing Singapore
The only online gambling operators legally licensed to offer services in Singapore are the Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club. Given Singapore’s strict laws and penalties for offshore casinos who service the Singapore market, it is very difficult to find a legitimate, reputable online casino who will accept players from Singapore. Given the heavy penalties that apply to players found gambling at an unlicensed site, it is not advisable for Singaporeans to play unlicensed casino games online. The government even has works in progress to ban the use of VPN (virtual private networks) so that residents can no longer get around geo-blocking laws.